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The relatively small American black metal realm has been shaken for some time by internal stylistic feuds. Growing popularity of iconoclastic bands (some would say “hipsters”), such as Wolves in the Throne Room, Liturgy or Bosse-de-Nage, is utterly displeasing defenders of the more traditional and aggressive United States black metal, also called USBM. However, these little Byzantine quarrels are not preventing certain groups to launch very good album, while staying true to their origins. This is evidenced by The Howling Wind with a flawless third album called Of Babalon. Resulting of a joint work of two experienced musicians (Tim Call on drums and Ryan Lipynsky on guitar and vocals) this reocrd manages to offer a pleasant synthesis American black metal, peppered with numerous references to most late 1980’s classics.
The main quality of this record is definitely its execution density, which jumps to the ears right from the start. In fact, no instrument really takes control over others, giving the listener an envelopment sensation. Beginning with The Seal Upon the Tomb, we are literally immersed in the purposely created album’s universe. The band develops strong and looping harmonic structures, sometimes grafted with solos or blasts. Note also the excellent song writing work of these Americans, who manage to differentiate each of their songs, while maintaining the same overall feeling. Listen, for example, a song like Grail, heavy and hard like a ton of bricks, or Scaling the Walls, with its melancholic atmosphere built on treble notes. Rest of the album is alike: we never get bored! This is a feat for orthodox black metal, a register known for its numerous ‘one-endlessy-repeated-riff’ albums.
Inspired by Hellhammer / Celtic Frost early albums for moods and rhythms (particularly evident on Choronzon), The Howling Wind released an excellent album, reminding me the work of such bands like Mgła. It’s also impressive to find out that a style so worn like orthodox black metal, once placed in talented musicians hands, can still be so good and creative. Of Babalon is undoubtedly one of the best U.S 2012 releases and I urge you to lend an ear on it. Now. 8/10
Originally written for Métal Obscur.